Morgan put her shoes on and walked outside to see Nina. “Good morning!” she said cheerfully. “gggruff” Nina the Dog barked in reply. Morgan heard her mother call from the house, “Be careful Hobbit! Stay on this street!”
“OK, Mom!” she called back. “Hi Daddy,” Morgan’s father was working out in the garage. He was always in the garage.
“Hello,” he smiled. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to take Nina to the park.” She said as she started down the driveway.
“Wait just a minute. Did you feed Pepsee and George?” He asked, knowing she was a forgetful child.
“Ummm…. I’m doing it right now.” She started back into the house. Nina followed her back to the door. The pup, who normally sat patiently waiting at the door, began to growl and whimper. Morgan reached down and patted Nina’s head “It’s OK, girl. I’ll be right back and we’ll go.” Nina just barked at the back door, blocking Morgan’s path. “Daddy! Nina won’t get out of the way.” Morgan’s father came over and grabbed the dog by her collar.
“OK, go on in, I’ve got her.”
Morgan walked back into the house. Her mother was no longer at the kitchen sink. “Mom?” she called out. There was no answer. Nina continued to bark outside. Morgan walked over to Pepsee’s cage first. The small parakeet was having a fit, squawking and flapping in her cage. Morgan spoke softly to her as she filled the dishes with fresh seed and water. Then, she did the same with George’s dishes. “I’m going now!” she shouted out again. Her mother still didn’t answer but Morgan thought she heard whispers as she walked back outside.
Again, Nina sprang at the door growling and nearly tripped Morgan as she tried to run through. Morgan grabbed her collar just in time. “Let’s go girl.” She dragged the pup away from the door and out onto the sidewalk. Then, the two friends headed to the park.
Meadow Street Park was only four houses down from Morgan’s, at the end of the cul-de-sac. Nina stayed extra close as they walked, nearly tripped the child several times on the way. Morgan went straight to the swings and Nina stood guard beside her. “What’s the matter, girl? Don’t you want to sniff the trees?” Even though she was young, Morgan was bright and she was aware the something was wrong with Nina. “Are you sick?” She asked as she kneeled in front of the dog and patted her head. Nina just whimpered and barked. She laid her head in the child’s lap and continued to cry. “OK, let’s go home. Come on, Nina.” Morgan stood to go.
On the way home Nina tried to run but had to stop and wait for Morgan, who saw no reason to hurry. She was concerned about Nina’s behavior but, as usual, reality gave way to daydreams and Morgan wandered home in her own world. Nina ran in front of her and even tried to push the child along.
“Dad, something’s wrong with Nina!” Morgan said as she walked into the garage. Dad, however, was nowhere to be seen. Nina stood barking and scratching at the backdoor. When Morgan opened it to go in, Nina rushed past her. “Nina! No!” The pup ignored her and ran down the hall…
“Mom! Mom! Dad! Dad!” The words came in short barks. “Gone! They’re gone!” Nina ran back down the hall to the child. “Morgan! They’re gone!” Morgan stared at the dog. Nina grabbed the child’s shirt with her teeth and began to pull. “Come on. We have to find them!” The words came from the dog’s clenched teeth.
“Nina, you can talk!” Was all the child could manage to say. Suddenly, there was a fuzzy weight against Morgan’s leg. She looked down to see George, her orange tabby, sitting against her. He was shivering.
“Thank goodness you’re back. I saw the whole thing from under the bed. It was horrible.” The cat gave another shudder.
“Shut up Cat!” Nina barked. “You saw the whole thing and didn’t help?”
George sat straighter and raised his head. “What did you expect me to do Dog? They were witches. I’m not one of their kind. They would have boiled me.”
Morgan stared at the two animals as they sized each other up. The tension was broken by a small voice. “Hello? Can you come in here please? I can’t see you and I’m feeling left out.”
Morgan walked in to the living room, where the voice came from. There, on her perch, sat Pepsee. She was watching Morgan and fluffed when she saw her. “There, that’s better. Now, are you going to ask me if I saw the witches?” The parakeet looked sweetly at Morgan.
“Pepsee!” Morgan looked at her bird with surprise. “You can talk too?”
“Of course I can talk. Now, about the witches…” The small wings began to flutter as the little bird became excited about her story. “I saw Mom standing over there in the food room. Suddenly, she wasn’t there anymore. But I never saw what happened to her.” From somewhere at her feet George answered.
“They were witches, with black hats and everything. I know because I saw them.” He sounded proud for having remembered these details.
“Yes. You saw them but you didn’t stop them,” barked Nina.
It is a strange thing with young children that, once the initial surprise has hit, they move right into acceptance. Morgan, having just heard her three pets speak, moved past the surprise and began to worry about her parents. “Stop arguing,” she told the animals, as though it was a common occurrence. Then, probably because it is what her father would have said, “Why do you always have to argue?”
“We have to find Mom and Dad!” Nina was staring at Morgan with her sad, puppy eyes. She was, after all, a child herself.
“OK, OK,” Morgan began pacing. “We need help.”
“Call 9-1-1!” The small shout came from the bird. “Isn’t that what Mom said to do.”
“And tell them what?” George asked in his relaxed, cat-like way. “Help, Mom and Dad have been taken by witches?”
“Well, we have to do something!” Nina whimpered.
“Ask the Wizard for help.” George answered.
“What wizard?” Morgan asked.
“That one”, the cat responded and looked towards the door. Suddenly, an old man with a long, white beard appeared out of thin air.
Morgan, who had been taught to never talk to strangers, took a step back and stared at the wizard. He was exactly as a wizard should be: he wore a long, colorful robe (mostly purple) and a tall, pointy hat. His beard was longer than Santa Claus’ and just as white. He had long bushy eyebrows and, though he looked very sad at the moment, his eyes twinkled like starlight.
“Hello child”, his voice was soft and kind, “do not be afraid. I have come to help.” He smiled and Morgan could see the stars twinkling in his eyes. She smiled back.
“Where did you come from?” It wasn’t what she had wanted to ask, but it was the first thing that she said. “I mean..”
The wizard just laughed, “Perhaps we can sit and talk. I will tell you everything I can. But there isn’t much time. The sisters have your parents and only you can get them back.”